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Dance Theatre of Harlem
Dance Theater of Harlem was formed in 1969 with its headquarters in Harlem, New York City. The ballet company is famous for prioritizing Black ballet dancers. It is the first classical Black ballet company in the US.
DTH has a community engagement program, Dancing Through Barriers®, developed to display the power of arts and how dance can change lives for the better.
The ballet company is accessible to all aspiring dancers. It has performed national and international tours over the years. Find more information about the ballet shows by DTH on our website.
History of DTH
Arthur Mitchell was the first African-American ballet dancer at the New York City Ballet. He was the principal dancer from 1956 to 1966. He was sent to Brazil by the government of the US to start the National Ballet of Brazil).
However, he heard the news of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination and changed his plans. He went back to Harlem (his childhood place) and started a ballet school for kids from poor and underprivileged Black families.
In 1969, he officially founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem. It was initially a school to train Black ballet dancers but soon had to start performing for an audience to earn revenue and pay back the investors.
DTH’s first public performance was in 1971 in New York. Mitchell choreographed three chamber ballets for the show.
George Balanchine gave Mitchell complete access to his ballet productions and styles for training and performances in DTH. Karel Shook, a master in Dutch Ballet, later joined DTH as Mitchell’s partner.
Growth of DTH
Dance Theatre of Harlem made its first international tour in 1971 by participating in the Spoleto Festival in Europe. It took the company three years to produce its first full season (1974). A decade later (1984), the ballet company premiered its best work, Creole Giselle.
Four years later, the company toured USSR for five weeks (1988). The DTH shows were a sell-out, and the performers received a standing ovation at the Kirov Theatre.
DTH toured South Africa in 1992 with its first Dancing Through Barriers program. The program is still active and encourages aspiring Black dancers to achieve their dreams.
The company faced a few financial issues in 2004 but took off and achieved full company status yet again in 2012 after Virginia Johnson was made the artistic director the previous year.
DTH is actively training ballet dancers and performing seasonal shows even today. Find out additional information on our site.